Xbox versus PlayStation was once the most divisive issue in video gaming. Both platforms had their own strengths and weaknesses but there was something of a loyalty amongst their respective user bases. Xbox were later onto the scene than their rivals and did absolutely everything they could to get their name on top. They were successful for some time but in recent years, things have changed. PlayStation 4 has sold more than twice as many units as the Xbox One and while both consoles are dwarfed by PC, it’s clear which side lost the Console Wars.
It was easy to see the success of the original PlayStation console. Sony’s 1994 release finally broke Nintendo’s control of the home gaming market and ushered in a huge change for the industry. Sony’s PlayStation ruled the roost for a long time but it didn’t take long for Microsoft to get in on the act.
The first Xbox console was released in 2001 but its 24 million sold units was dwarfed by the 155 million sold by PlayStation 2. Amazingly, that gap was closed with the next platform. The Xbox 360 stole a march on the PlayStation 3 and that was reflected in the shops. Xbox actually outsold their competitors so the stage was set for the deciding round once the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 were set for release.
Release & Advertising
Both Microsoft and Sony announced their respective consoles in early 2013 and thus began a pair of massive marketing campaigns. As the newer brand, Xbox had to advertise slightly differently to its rival. Microsoft used a combination of celebrity endorsements and sponsorship deals to get the name out there. They struck up a shirt sponsorship deal with MLS side, the Seattle Sounders which is actually quite a common approach for newer brands. For example, in the Premier League, Betway sponsor West Ham United and FxPro sponsor Watford, both companies were founded in the mid-2000s. As well as that, Microsoft hired one of the stars of AMC’s Breaking Bad, Aaron Paul, for its television ads.
PlayStation opted for a slightly different form of advertising campaign. “For the gamers,” became the console’s tagline which set the tone for what they were trying to achieve with their marketing. Ads focussed on the games and the people playing them as well as the numerous exclusive titles which PlayStation had.
Both consoles were released in November 2013 and it quickly became clear that Sony’s console was going to come out on top. Sales were far better than expected for Playstation while the release of the Xbox One was shrouded in controversy. The DRM scandal really hurt the console with people furious that an Xbox policy would have effectively ended pre-owned games. The company were forced to retract their decision and faced further embarrassment when their Xbox One adverts – the costly celebrity endorsements – started accidentally turning on users’ consoles through voice recognition.
One of the biggest things which held the Xbox One back was the simple fact that it was an inferior console. On release, the PlayStation was faster, smaller and quieter than its rival, falling in line with the ‘for the gamers’ slogan.
The PlayStation Slim replaced the original console a few years later with the Xbox One S doing the same for Microsoft. Both models were slight improvements but nothing in comparison to what Microsoft has planned. The Xbox One X is released in November 2017 and will finally overtake the PS4 in terms of specifications. The new model will be a huge improvement but there is a fear that the damage is already done.
Some of the biggest selling points for game platforms are exclusive titles. You’ll never play Mario or Pokémon away from Nintendo and there are a few dozen more which are only available on Playstation. The Uncharted series is hugely popular, as are titles like The Last of Us and Horizon: Zero Dawn.
In comparison, Xbox’s exclusive list isn’t quite what it was. Gone are the days of Halo 3 and Gears of War and instead, Xbox can only boast sequels. Halo Wars 2 hardly set the world alight and Gears of War 4 didn’t perform much better.
The Result: Sales
Even after a million Xbox one consoles were sold within 24 hours of release, it’s pretty clear that PlayStation 4 has won. Estimates vary but it’s generally agreed that PlayStation has sold around twice as many units at around 60 million and 25-30 million respectively.
Things have changed a lot in video gaming since the successes of the PlayStation 2 and the Xbox 360. Mobile games are on the up but all platforms are dwarfed by PC gaming. The majority of gamers – both casual and at eSports level – now choose a mouse and keyboard over a controller. League of Legends alone gets around 100 million players each month.
Video gaming habits have changed significantly in the last two decades and will surely continue to do so in the coming years. Console sales peaked with the PlayStation 2 and Microsoft did the impossible by overtaking it with the Xbox 360. The stage was set for the final showdown between the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Both consoles were the focus of enormous advertising campaigns but it quickly became clear that Sony’s effort was the better machine. That was reflected in console sales with the PS4 selling twice as many units as its rival. It’s clear that PlayStation won the Console Wars but when it comes to video gaming as a whole, PC reigns supreme.